Israel and Hizbullah Trade Artillery Fire in Retaliatory Attacks

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ROCKETS hit this northern border town yesterday for the first time in nearly a decade, as Lebanese Islamic fundamentalist gunners sought vengeance for the death of their leader.

Three Katyusha rockets fell inside the town just after dawn, according to Mayor Prosper Azran, but did no damage. Israeli artillery continued to target pro-Iranian Hizbullah positions in southern Lebanon throughout the morning.

"Twenty or 30 Katyusha rockets have landed in the last few hours {in the Israeli-controlled security zone of southern Lebanon}, and this hasn't happened for a very long time," Israeli Army Chief of Staff Ehud Barak said here yesterday morning. The shelling could lead to an "escalation" of violence along the Lebanese border, he warned, unless the Syrian and Lebanese governments put a stop to it.

The first attack on Kiryat Shmona since Israel's invasion of Lebanon came in response to the death of Hizbullah leader Sheikh Abbas Musawi on Sunday, in an Israeli helicopter attack on his convoy in southern Lebanon.

At a military airport beneath the snowy peak of Mount Hermon, Israeli troops in battle gear piled into transport helicopters yesterday morning, bound for the security zone.

As the helicopters clattered north, Israeli and Hizbullah gunners continued their artillery duel that began Sunday evening.

The new spate of violence erupted early on Saturday morning, when presumed Palestinian guerrillas crept into a lightly guarded Israeli military camp and killed three conscripts with knives, axes, and a pitchfork.

Though Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens blamed the militant Black Panther faction linked with Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization for the attack, Israel retaliated by killing Hizbullah's Sheikh Musawi as he returned from a rally in South Lebanon. His wife, infant son, and eight companions also died in the assault.

"We are determined to defend our borders and to fight the terrorists of whatever sort," General Barak said here yesterday, as he visited troops departing for South Lebanon. …